The Design Language of the Iconic Cartier Tank

The Design Language of the Iconic Cartier Tank

Cultural Perspectives • 25 Oct 2021

The Design Language of the Iconic Cartier Tank


In the design of the Tank watch, four main principles governing Cartier’s entire creative approach converge: the purity of the line, the accuracy of the shape, the precision of the proportions, and precious details. For Cartier, it all must start with the design.

Purity of line, accuracy of the shape

The purity of the lines communicates Cartier’s desire to pare down lines and perspectives and to find the simplest expression of every object. The structure becomes visible and instantly understandable. At the Maison, legend has it that Louis Cartier himself drew a parallel between the architecture of the Tank watch and the design of a combat vehicle viewed from above: the brancards, or sidebars, were the tracks and the case the turret. In terms of the accuracy of the shape, formal research made it possible to move from a square (the dial) to a rectangle (the bracelet).

Read: Cartier and complicated watchmaking 

Cartier Tank Design Studies. Image Credit: Cartier
Cartier Tank Design Studies. Image Credit: Cartier

Tank Proportions

The precision of the proportions lies in the balance between the lines and shapes, the volume and harmony that emanate from the design and lend the Tank its remarkable elegance. The precious details can be seen in the level of refinement applied to the watch by Cartier, from the set crown to the contrasting polished and satin-finished brancards, the finely crafted dial and the blued-steel hands.

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Cartier Tank Must. Iconic deign paired with expressive colour palettes. Image Credit: Cartier
Cartier Tank Must. Iconic deign paired with expressive colour palettes. Image Credit: Cartier

The Legend & The History 

At the start of the 20th century, Louis Cartier undertook formal research with the aim of incorporating the hour circle into the lines of the bracelet and to refine and ultimately integrate the design of the horns so that they continue from the case onto the bracelet.

Although first developed by Cartier in late 1916, the Tank wasn’t launched until 1919. Between 15 November and 26 December 1919, six pieces were added to stock; on 17 January of the following year, none were left.

Cartier Tank Through The Ages – View Gallery Below 

A Unique Spirit

The Tank is the watch of aesthetes and creatives looking for ultimate elegance, who appreciate it for its pure design.  Roman numerals mark the hours on the majority of the Tank watches. The dial features a “rail-track”: a double line with a minute scale. Its design resembles the tracks of a railway line. A true Cartier signature, this graphic can be found on the dial of watches from the Tank collection. The “rail-track” and Roman numerals intensify the visual power of the dial. On the Tank watch, the strap attachments (horns) are incorporated into the case by the twin parallel lines of the brancards. Beaded or with rounded sides, the winding crown is set with a sapphire cabochon.

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7 reasons to embrace the Tank
7 reasons to embrace the Tank
Tags: cartier cartier tank

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